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Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

The Mueller Report does not include the investigation’s counterintelligence analysis. It says that explicitly here (see also this Ben Wittes report, though I think he gets a few things wrong).

From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded personnel at the Office who did not work on the Special Counsel’s investigation, but whose purpose was to review the results of the investigation and to send-in writing-summaries of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to FBIHQ and FBI Field Offices. Those communications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume. This Volume is a summary. It contains, in the Office’s judgment, that information necessary to account for the Special Counsel’s prosecution and declination decisions and to describe the investigation’s main factual results. [my emphasis]

These FBI Agents were only co-located for part of Mueller’s tenure, perhaps around the same time as the IRA indictment? And this description does not include the three NSD prosecutors described as detailees, Heather Alpino, Ryan Dickey, and Jessica Romero, as distinct from prosecutors originally assigned to Mueller.

Plus, we know there was always a counterintelligence focus to this investigation; all the initial subjects of it (Manafort, Page, Papadopoulos, and Flynn) were counterintelligence concerns. Other Trump associates got added in October 2017, but even there, the investigation into Michael Cohen started as a FARA investigation and Gates and probably others were brought in along with Manafort’s counterintelligence concerns. Then there’s Trump (who must have been brought in for obstruction, but I don’t think the report says how).

But the most significant thing that doesn’t show up in this report is whether Trump was undercutting the investigation as a favor to Russia, reportedly one of the concerns Rod Rosenstein had when he first hired Mueller. This report does not explicitly treat that concern, at all (to significant detriment to one area of its analysis, as I’ll show in a follow-up post).

That’s most evident in the way the report deals with Vladimir Putin in the post-inauguration period. The report itself invokes Putin at least 163 times, often describing the many different efforts to set up a meeting between Putin and Trump. But when Trump actually started meeting with top Russian officials — and Putin specifically — the report gets quiet.

We finally get a read-out of the January 28 phone call

Start with the phone call between Trump and Putin on January 28, 2017. The report describes that setting up this call was among the things Mike Flynn spoke to Sergey Kislyak about.

Flynn discussed multiple topics with Kislyak, including the sanctions, scheduling a video teleconference between President-Elect Trump and Putin, an upcoming terrorism conference, and Russia’s views about the Middle East.

That Kislyak asked him to set up the call was actually something Flynn told the FBI the truth about in his interview with the FBI. More importantly, the report reveals several details that previous reporting about the George Nader channel did not: first, the role of Jared Kushner’s hedge fund buddy Rick Gerson in that back channel with Kirill Dmitriev, and the role that a “reconciliation plan” that Dmitriev got to Kushner via Gerson played in that January 28 meeting.

On January 16, 2017, Dmitriev consolidated the ideas for U.S.-Russia reconciliation that he and Gerson had been discussing into a two-page document that listed five main points: (1) jointly fighting terrorism; (2) jointly engaging in anti-weapons of mass destruction efforts; (3) developing “win-win” economic and investment initiatives; (4) maintaining an honest, open, and continual dialogue regarding issues of disagreement; and (5) ensuring proper communication and trust by “key people” from each country. 1111 On January 18, 2017, Gerson gave a copy of the document to Kushner. 1112 Kushner had not heard of Dmitriev at that time. 1113 Gerson explained that Dmitriev was the head of RDIF, and Gerson may have alluded to Dmitriev’s being well connected. 1114 Kushner placed the document in a file and said he would get it to the right people. 1115 Kushner ultimately gave one copy of the document to Bannon and another to Rex Tillerson; according to Kushner, neither of them followed up with Kushner about it. 1116 On January 19, 2017, Dmitriev sent Nader a copy of the two-page document, telling him that this was “a view from our side that I discussed in my meeting on the islands and with you and with our friends. Please share with them – we believe this is a good foundation to start from.” 1117

Gerson informed Dmitriev that he had given the document to Kushner soon after delivering it. 1118 On January 26, 2017, Dmitriev wrote to Gerson that his “boss”-an apparent reference to Putin-was asking if there had been any feedback on the proposal. 1119 Dmitriev said, ” [w]e do not want to rush things and move at a comfortable speed. At the same time, my boss asked me to try to have the key US meetings in the next two weeks if possible.”1120 He informed Gerson that Putin and President Trump would speak by phone that Saturday, and noted that that information was “very confidential.”1121

The same day, Dmitriev wrote to Nader that he had seen his “boss” again yesterday who had “emphasized that this is a great priority for us and that we need to build this communication channel to avoid bureaucracy.” 1122 On January 28, 2017, Dmitriev texted Nader that he wanted “to see if I can confirm to my boss that your friends may use some of the ideas from the 2 pager I sent you in the telephone call that will happen at 12 EST,”1123 an apparent reference to the call scheduled between President Trump and Putin. Nader replied, “Definitely paper was so submitted to Team by Rick and me. They took it seriously!”1124 After the call between President Trump and Putin occurred, Dmitriev wrote to Nader that “the call went very well. My boss wants me to continue making some public statements that us [sic] Russia cooperation is good and important.” 1125 Gerson also wrote to Dmitriev to say that the call had gone well, and Dmitriev replied that the document they had drafted together “played an important role.” 1126 [my emphasis]

This was a meeting that the US side provided just a terse readout of (and, if I remember correctly, only after Russia released its readout). 27 months later, we’re learning that Dmitriev (whose bank was of questionable status because of sanctions) and convicted pedophile Nader were prepping the meeting less than an hour before it began (the report cites text messages between them from 11:05 and 11:11 AM the morning of the 12PM meeting, as well as texts involving Gerson). Between them, the two of them plus Gerson (none of whom had clearance) had a better sense of how the meeting went than the American public. Among the things they learned — but we did not — was that part of the reconciliation plan included “win-win” economic and investment initiatives pitched by the head of RDIF.

The lead-up to this meeting is the subject about which Steve Bannon and Erik Prince mysteriously lost the encrypted texts they exchanged discussing it.

While the report does describe this meeting in its assessment of links between Russians and Trump associates, it doesn’t focus on how it lines up with questions about firing Mike Flynn.

The correlation of Trump’s decision to fire Comey and his conversation with Putin

The report gets still more coy when it describes the role of a meeting with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak the day after Trump fired Jim Comey. One of the most pregnant footnotes in the report (h/t Laura Rozen) notes that the May 10, 2017 meeting was planned in a call between Putin and Trump and confirmed the day Trump first dictated the Comey termination at Bedminster Golf Course.

468 SCR08_000353 (5/9/17 White House Document, “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia”); SCR08_001274 (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.). The meeting had been planned on May 2, 2017, during a telephone call between the President and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the meeting date was confirmed on May 5, 2017, the same day the President dictated ideas for the Comey termination letter to Stephen Miller. SCR08_001274 (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly et al.).

According to Don McGahn, in the leadup to Comey’s May 3 testimony to Congress, Trump told him that if Comey did not confirm that Trump was not under investigation it would “be the last straw” because it was “hurting his ability to … deal with foreign leaders.”

McGahn recalled that in the week leading up to the hearing, the President said that it would be the last straw if Comey did not take the opportunity to set the record straight by publicly announcing that the President was not under investigation.384 The President had previously told McGahn that the perception that the President was under investigation was hurting his ability to carry out his presidential duties and deal with foreign leaders.385

Trump brought up Comey at least 8 times with Bannon in the following two days, and Bannon warned Trump not to fire Comey.

Bannon recalled that the President brought Comey up with him at least eight times on May 3 and May 4, 2017 .399 According to Bannon, the President said the same thing each time: “He told me three times I’m not under investigation. He’s a showboater. He’s a grandstander. I don’t know any Russians. There was no collusion.”400 Bannon told the President that he could not fire Comey because “that ship had sailed.”401 Bannon also told the President that firing Comey was not going to stop the investigation, cautioning him that he could fire the FBI director but could not fire the FBI.402

On the 5th — the day (the report helpfully notes) the Russian meeting was confirmed — Trump dictated to Stephen Miller to start Comey’s termination letter by stating that the Trump-Russia story was fabricated.

[T]he President told Miller that the letter should start, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me that I am not under investigation concerning what I have often stated is a fabricated story on a Trump-Russia relationship – pertaining to the 2016 presidential election, please be informed that I, and I believe the American public – including Ds and Rs – have lost faith in you as Director of the FBI.”

Trump prohibited Miller from telling anyone at the White House about his plan to fire Comey.

All that would lead you to believe the report might make further note about this correlation, about the appearance (which had already been suggested, but the report makes far more clear) that Trump took action in advance of that meeting.

It doesn’t really. The description of the meeting does make clear that, in the wake of Trump’s comments to Lavrov boasting about firing Comey, the White House released a statement that incorporated and expanded on the language about Comey’s grandstanding from finalized Miller letter drafted at Bedminster.

In the morning on May 10, 2017, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.468 The media subsequently reported that during the May 10 meeting the President brought up his decision the prior day to terminate Comey, telling Lavrov and Kislyak: “T just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. … I’m not under investigation.”469 The President never denied making those statements, and the White House did not dispute the account, instead issuing a statement that said: “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified information.”470 Hicks said that when she told the President about the reports on his meeting with Lavrov, he did not look concerned and said of Comey, “he is crazy.”471 When McGahn asked the President about his comments to Lavrov, the President said it was good that Comey was fired because that took the pressure off by making it clear that he was not under investigation so he could get more work done.472 [my emphasis]

What the report doesn’t mention, at all, is that Trump shared sensitive Israeli intelligence with the Russians at this meeting, an obvious counterintelligence concern.

Trump’s secret co-author on the June 9 meeting statement

An even more remarkable silence in the report pertains to the conversation Trump had with Putin at the G20 while his team was working on drafting the statement about the June 9 meeting.

The description of Trump’s actions on this matter are fairly superlative, with Hope Hicks describing Trump in what is best described as denial, refusing to be included in conversations about it, yet strongly suggesting that it was Trump making the comment — suggesting they could withhold the damning emails — that Mark Corallo later attributed to her. Hicks even describes Trump as committing what he considered the ultimate sin, not commenting on a story.

On July 7, 2017, while the President was overseas, Hicks and Raffel learned that the New York Times was working on a story about the June 9 meeting.695 The next day, Hicks told the President about the story and he directed her not to comment.696 Hicks thought the President’s reaction was odd because he usually considered not responding to the press to be the ultimate sin.697

The report then describes how (in what would have been in the wake of Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Putin) Trump instructed her to claim the meeting was just about adoptions. It then describes Trump dictating a statement, watering down the offer of dirt to just adoptions, something that not even Don Jr was willing to put out.

Later that day, Hicks and the President again spoke about the story.698 Hicks recalled that the President asked her what the meeting had been about, and she said that she had been told the meeting was about Russian adoption.699 The President responded, “then just say that.”700

On the flight home from the G20 on July 8, 2017, Hicks obtained a draft statement about the meeting to be released by Trump Jr. and brought it to the President.701 The draft statement began with a reference to the information that was offered by the Russians in setting up the meeting: “I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign.”702 Hicks again wanted to disclose the entire story, but the President directed that the statement not be issued because it said too much.703 The President told Hicks to say only that Trump Jr. took a brief meeting and it was about Russian adoption.704 After speaking with the President, Hicks texted Trump Jr. a revised statement on the June 9 meeting that read:

It was a short meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up. 705

Hicks’s text concluded, “Are you ok with this? Attributed to you.”706 Trump Jr. responded by text message that he wanted to add the word “primarily” before “discussed” so that the statement would read, “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.”707 Trump Jr. texted that he wanted the change because “[t]hey started with some Hillary thing which was bs and some other nonsense which we shot down fast. “708 Hicks texted back, “I think that’s right too but boss man worried it invites a lot of questions[.) [U]ltimately [d]efer to you and [your attorney] on that word Be I know it’s important and I think the mention of a campaign issue adds something to it in case we have to go further.” 709 Trump Jr. responded, “lfl don’t have it in there it appears as though I’m lying later when they inevitably leak something.” 710

The passage mentions nothing about Trump’s meeting, with no American aides, with Putin at the G20 dinner in between the first discussion of a statement about adoptions and the one Trump drafted personally.

Nor does the report, in repeated discussions of Trump’s unplanned interview with the NYT at which he admitted discussing adoptions with Putin that night, mention that admission.

Within hours of the President’s meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President gave an unplanned interview to the New York Times in which he criticized Sessions’s decision to recuse from the Russia investigation.630 The President said that “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”631 Sessions’s recusal, the President said, was “very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”632 Hicks, who was present for the interview, recalled trying to “throw [herself] between the reporters and [the President]” to stop parts of the interview, but the President “loved the interview.”633

[snip]

On July 19, 2017, the President had his follow-up meeting with Lewandowski and then met with reporters for the New York Times. In addition to criticizing Sessions in his Times interview, the President addressed the June 9, 2016 meeting and said he “didn’t know anything about the meeting” at the time.734 The President added, “As I’ve said-most other people, you know, when they call up and say, ‘By the way, we have information on your opponent,’ I think most politicians – I was just with a lot of people, they said … , ‘Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”‘735

Trump’s admission that he spoke to Putin about adoptions in the same interview where he prepared the ground to fire Sessions and insisted that everyone would take a meeting with foreigners offering dirt on your opponent would seem important to the discussion of whether in attempting to fire Sessions, Trump was obstructing not a criminal investigation into his own conduct, but a counterintelligence investigation into his own ties with Putin.

But the report not only doesn’t consider it, the report doesn’t mention it.

Nor does the report discuss some of the other bizarre Trump interactions with Putin, most of all the Helsinki meeting that took place in the wake of the release of the GRU indictment, leading Trump to yet again very publicly deny Russia’s role in the attack, that time in the presence of Putin himself.

Now, there may be very good constitutional reasons why the analysis of Trump’s weird relationship with Putin as President is not part of this report. The President is empowered with fairly unlimited authority to conduct foreign policy and to declassify information, which would cover these instances.

Plus, if Mueller conducted this analysis, you wouldn’t want to share that publicly so the Russians could read it.

But it must be noted that the report doesn’t answer what a lot of people think it does: whether Trump has been compromised by Russia, leading him to pursue policies damaging to US interests. Let me very clear: I don’t think Trump is a puppet being managed by Vladimir Putin. But contrary to a great number of claims that this report puts those concerns to rest, the report does the opposite. With the limited exception of the suggestion of a tie between firing Comey and the meeting with Lavrov, the report doesn’t even mention the key incidents that would be the subject of such analysis.

If anything, new details released in this report provide even further reason to think Trump obstructed the Russian investigation to halt the counterintelligence analysis of his ties with Russia. But the report itself doesn’t ever explicitly consider whether that’s why Trump obstructed this investigation.

Update: As TC noted, one thing the report does include is the detail that during a period he was trying to fire Sessions, Trump wanted him to limit Mueller’s mandate to future elections, which would have the effect of limiting the investigation into Russia’s crime as well as any potential exposure of his own.

During the June 19 meeting, Lewandowski recalled that, after some small talk, the President brought up Sessions and criticized his recusal from the Russia investigation.605

The President told Lewandowski that Sessions was weak and that if the President had known about the likelihood of recusal in advance, he would not have appointed Sessions.606 The President then asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to Sessions and said “write this down.” 607 This was the first time the President had asked Lewandowski to take dictation, and Lewandowski wrote as fast as possible to make sure he captured the content correctly.608 The President directed that Sessions should give a speech publicly announcing: I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS . .. is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn’t have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history.609

The dictated message went on to state that Sessions would meet with the Special Counsel to limit his jurisdiction to future election interference:

Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. T am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections.610

emptywheel’s Mueller Report coverage

The Significance of Trump’s Obstruction of Investigation of His Family’s Campaign Finance Crimes, Plural

How “Collusion” Appears in the Mueller Report

Putin’s Ghost: The Counterintelligence Calculus Not Included in the Obstruction Analysis

Working Twitter Threads on the Mueller Report

The Trump Men and the Grand Jury Redactions

Mueller’s Language about “Collusion,” Coordination, and Conspiracy

The Many Lies and Prevarications of Bill Barr

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Three Things: Big Day, Big Top

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

It’s going to be a big day under the big top. Attorney General Bill Barr has planned quite the circus, beginning right now with his so-called press conference. But first, three things, one of which includes hygiene for the day ahead.

~ 3 ~

Let’s face it: it’s Maundy Thursday, the weather in West Palm Beach is supposed to be partly sunny tomorrow and Saturday, and sunny on Easter Sunday. Which means Trump will likely be on Air Force One this afternoon, winging his way to Mar-a-Lago and the promise of golf at one of his courses because that’s about all he can focus on for more than the time it takes to send a tweet.

This is likely why he wants to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfer Tiger Woods after winning his latest green jacket at The Masters this past weekend. Trump said,

So shallow and self-centered, recognizing a fellow marital cheat and a golfing buddy, one who designed a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai.

And yet par for this pathetic hole.

~ 2 ~

I don’t write often about Trump-Russia because it’s Marcy’s beat — there’s little she hasn’t scrutinized and picked apart during the course of the Special Counsel’s investigation. But this one thing has stuck in my craw, especially after all the hubbub this past week about Julian Assange’s removal from the Ecuadoran embassy and arrest by Metropolitan Police-UK.

It’s in this email exchange from October 2016, about WikiLeaks’ 10th anniversary when Assange was supposed to have made a big announcement and didn’t. The following

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

What was that this morning???

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Roger Stone
TO: Steve Bannon
EMAIL:
Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done.

However —a load every week going forward.

Roger stone

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

He didn’t cut deal w/ clintons???

Why did former Trump campaign chief executive and former White House adviser Steve Bannon express surprise that Assange hadn’t cut a deal with the Clintons?

Was it a given that Assange would have attempted to extort money from one or both of the Clintons to halt the release of hacked emails?

Why would Bannon in particular have thought this? Was it common knowledge in certain circles that Assange would use blackmail? Or has blackmail been one of the other unaddressed methods by which targets have been compromised and evidence simply hasn’t been shared because it’s classified?

Did Special Counsel’s Office ask any member of the Clinton campaign or Bill Clinton or any Clinton family support staff whether they had been contacted about hacked materials in an attempt to extort money or performance from them?

It seemed like odd hyperbole at the time in early August 2016 that Assange would accuse Hillary Clinton of electoral extortion, claiming she tried to scare the electorate into voting for her. But was it really a form of projection to muddle possible leaks about other extortion attempts? (Yes, the source at that link above is a right-wing outlet, but that’s the point: they carried water for this effort.)

Ecuadoran official said they are investigating whether Assange attempted to blackmail President Moreno. It looks more like a pattern of behavior based on WikiLeaks’ handling of Vault 7 and if Bannon’s email assumed an earlier attempt on the Clintons

~ 1 ~

Okay, I’ll skip a third non-Barr report item because we’re all a little short on patience. If you need something to preoccupy your time you can focus on taking action.

See Celeste_pewter’s Twitter thread for calls you can make, or check her TinyLetter site; once again she’s done the heavy lifting and prepared scripts for you.

She’s also laid out the anticipated schedule today for AG Barr’s three-ring circus:

9:30 AM: Barr and Rosenstein will hold a press conference on Mueller report

(Mueller not in attendance)

10:30 AM (approx): Trump will issue a rebuttal

11:00 – 12:00 PM: DOJ will provide hard copies of the report to Congress

TBD: Trump MAY give a press conference at this point

2:00 PM (approximate): Report posted on special counsel website (https://www.justice.gov/sco)

I’m setting up a list in my Twitter account to follow folks for analysis and feedback on the Trump-Russia investigation including today’s Barr report.

(And yes, I’m calling it the ‘Barr report’ because the method of its reception will have been substantially shaped by Barr.)

~ 0 ~

Lastly, the matter of hygiene: this site will be busy. Trolling may be heavy depending on what’s visible in the report and what is pointed out by Marcy in particular. If the site bogs down, please be patient.

If necessary, reach one of us via Twitter though you may not get an immediate response because we’re going to be busy.

Moderation will be firm and aggressive. We don’t have time for temper tantrums, trolling, or for internecine squabbles.

Keep all off topic discussion to this thread; if it gets too deep, like more than 200 comments, I will open a new thread for off topic material. Posts Marcy opens related to the report should remain on topic.

This is going to be a long day. Pace yourselves. Drink water regularly. Take a break from social media when you’re getting worked up. Digest this pile of elephant one bite at a time.

We have plenty of time after the circus’s acts have finished to sweep up and dig through the animal poo they leave behind.

This is an open thread.

The Facts: There Is No Crisis and No Emergency, Just Trump’s Campaign

[NB: Check the byline. /~Rayne]

After mixing it up with a old conservative over spring break — someone who doesn’t watch Fox News but spends too much time with people who do — it’s clear Trump’s and Fox’s lies have deeply infected right-wing minds.

They believe Trump’s falsehoods about a crisis at the border, that there was reason for Trump to declare an emergency.

They’re also incapable of fact checking. They’re authoritarians and believe whatever current authority figure tells them; the motivation to validate authority doesn’t exist.

They appear unable to analyze what they do see to make an independent assessment of their own. It doesn’t occur to them to ask, What would be so bad a family with toddlers and infants would flee their home, walking over a thousand miles for more than a month and through a desert to escape?

They’re sheep — our country is regressing under the leadership of fascist sheep.

I wanted to cram a bunch of facts in this conservative’s head but I honestly don’t know if they’d bother to read anything I gave them because I’m not a Fox talking head.

~ ~ ~
Fact: Trend data from DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) about so-called illegal immigrants border crossings indicates it has trended lower over the last 15 years:

(source: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Nationwide Illegal Alien Apprehensions Fiscal Years 1925-2018 pdf)

From another perspective there is no migrant crisis, shows Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) in this graph using CBP’s own data:

Fact: Trend data graphed by Pew Research drawn from DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) about the so-called wave of asylum seekers Trump has called animals in his eliminationist rants reveals a wave of family units migrating from Central America, not Mexico:

Fact: Instead of performing a root cause analysis to determine why families and unaccompanied minors are so desperate to enter the U.S. to seek asylum, Trump wants to cut funding to Central American countries, which will exacerbate the underlying problems internal to the affected countries.

Fact: The largest number of families and children reaching the border came from Guatemala, fleeing crime and drought.

Fact: Guatemala’s volatility may have been exacerbated by multiple volcanic eruptions in 2018, affecting at least two million Guatemalans. The plume from a June eruption was visible from space:

Fact: Many Hondurans fleeing to the U.S. are also fleeing crime and violence; women in particular are fleeing because femicide has been a growing epidemic during the last six years, 95% of which has gone unpunished.

Fact: The U.S. ratified the U.N. protocol to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1968. This expressed the country’s intent to acknowledge and recognize the rights of asylum seekers. The U.S. has not retracted its ratification.

Fact: Asylum seekers can request asylum under Title 8 U.S. Code § 1158, on either side of the border:

(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

Fact: Trump said “the system is full, can’t take you any more,” which is in opposition to U.S. law on asylum.

Fact: Until it became legal problem for the Trump organization, Trump’s golf courses hired undocumented workers from Central America, some of them for years. This illegal hiring practice, out of compliance with decades-long rules about screening hirees, didn’t become an issue until Trump wanted to use DACA and Temporary Protected Status as a bargaining chit to obtain funding for his “fucken wall” during the government shutdown.

Fact: El Paso, Texas, isn’t in a state of crisis; its mayor attests to this, and asked Trump to stop lying about it. But Trump wanted to shut down the border at El Paso altogether because of his lie that the border is in crisis.

Fact: When told that closing the border as he requested would cause serious damage to the U.S. economy by throttling free trade, Trump said, “I don’t care.

Fact: Trump has insisted that families be separated at the border because he believes it will discourage them from seeking asylum in the U.S.

Fact: Trump, “ranting and raving” at White House and DHS staff, stressed the “border is my issue” while issuing unlawful orders to separate families at the border. He isn’t following through on carefully considered policy but on a campaign issue — one from 2016, and now one for the 2020 race.

~ ~ ~
The bottom line: Trump both as president and as a business owner has violated federal law.

He has done so, deliberately employing cruelty and at cost of human lives, in order to fulfill a campaign promise in 2016, as a campaign theme in 2018 to assist the GOP in mid-terms, and as a campaign stunt for re-election in 2020. As he said, the “border is my issue.”

He has issued unlawful orders as part of his ongoing campaigning under influence of former adviser anarchist Steve Bannon and white nationalist Stephen Miller, a current White House adviser.

The Republican Party aids and abets this — endorses this — as political practice as long as it fails to check the de facto leader of their party. Cruelty and indifference to non-white, non-English-speaking people including infants and families is now their brand along with disregard for treaties and laws.

In doing so, the Republican Party destroys any pretensions to legitimacy if it supports systematic unlawful behavior.

We need to ask if it is now fact that there is no Republican Party.

The Roger Stone Indictment Proves Barr’s Memo Understates Trump Flunkies’ Complicity

I’ve made this point implicitly a few times, but it bears making explicitly. We have proof that Bill Barr’s memo spins the known contents of the Mueller Report to minimize the complicity of Trump’s flunkies. That’s because we can compare what we know about Roger Stone’s efforts to optimize the release of the emails Russia stole with the language used in the memo.

As alleged in sworn statements and his indictment, Stone’s actions include at least the following:

  • Around July 19, 2016: Fresh off dining with some Brexiteers, Stone calls Trump and tells him, “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” to which Trump responds, “wouldn’t that be great.”
  • After July 22: A senior Trump campaign official “was directed” (the indictment doesn’t say by whom) to figure out from Stone what else would be coming
  • July 25: Stone emails Jerome Corsi and asks him to “get the pending WikiLeaks emails”
  • August 2: Corsi writes back and reflects knowledge that the emails would include Podesta ones and there would be two email drops, one shortly after he returned and one in October
  • October 4: After Assange has a press conference but doesn’t release any emails, Steve Bannon emails Stone and asks what happened, and Stone replies that WikiLeaks will release “a load every week going forward”
  • October 7: As the Podesta emails start to come out right after the Access Hollywood video — timing that Jerome Corsi has claimed Stone helped ensure — a Bannon associate texts Stone and says, “well done”

Now, none of that was itself charged as a crime. Stone was not charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks. But then, short of making an argument that WikiLeaks is a known agent of Russia — which the US government has never done — optimizing the WikiLeaks release is not a crime. But assuming that Corsi is correct that Stone got WikiLeaks to hold the Podesta release to dampen the impact of the Access Hollywood video, it is absolutely coordination. And even according to Stone — who believed Trump needed to avoid alienating women to win — dampening the release of the video influenced the election.

Now consider how this behavior falls into Barr’s supposed exoneration of Trump campaign involvement in the hack-and-leak.

First, there’s Barr’s truncated citation of a Mueller Report sentence. [my emphasis throughout]

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Then a footnote defining what the word “coordinated” means in that sentence.

In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russian election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined “coordinated” as an “agreement–tacit or express–between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

Finally, there’s Barr’s own version.

The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

The exoneration for coordination in Mueller’s language, at least, extends only to the Trump campaign, not to rat-fuckers working on the side (one of the things Mueller reportedly asked a lot of witnesses was precisely when and why Stone left the campaign). And at least according to this language, Mueller’s assessment of coordination extended only to coordination with the Russian government. So even if Mueller and the US government are getting close to labeling WikiLeaks a Russian entity, it still wouldn’t count for this assessment. Unsurprisingly, Barr relies on that language to give the Trump campaign a clean bill of health on the hack-and-leak side.

Most cynically, though, even after Barr acknowledges that the Russians used WikiLeaks to disseminate the stolen emails, the very next sentence doesn’t mention the charges Mueller brought against Stone for hiding his own (and through him, the campaign’s, including Donald Trump’s) coordination of the releases “for purposes of influencing the election.”

But we know Stone’s indictment has to be in the report. That’s because the report, by regulation, must list all Mueller’s prosecutorial decisions. So not only would Mueller describe that he indicted Stone, but he probably also explains why he didn’t include a conspiracy charge in Stone’s indictment (which probably relates primarily to First Amendment concerns, and not any illusions about WikiLeaks’ willing service for Russia on this operation). So it must be in the report. But Barr doesn’t mention that, indeed, the Trump campaign, through their associated rat-fucker, did actually coordinate on the hack-and-leak and did actually influence the election by doing so, they just didn’t coordinate directly with the Russian government.

On this matter, it’s crystal clear that Barr cynically limited his discussion of the report to obscure that Mueller had, indeed, found that the campaign “coordinated” on the hack-and-leak for purposes of influencing the election.

Barr has already demonstrated bad faith in his representation of Mueller’s findings. Which is why it is so alarming that — according to an uncharacteristically alarmed Peter Baker — DOJ plans to write a summary of Mueller’s report for Congress, not send over a redacted version of it.

Mueller’s full report has yet to be released, and it remained unclear if it ever would be. House Democrats have demanded that it be sent to them by next Tuesday, but the Justice Department outlined a longer schedule, saying that it will have its own summary ready to send to lawmakers within weeks, though not months.

Barr has already failed the test of whether he can summarize Mueller’s results in good faith.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Mueller Has More Discovery on Roger Stone Alone than the Entire Trump Campaign Turned Over

I want to compare a detail from a Roger Stone filing with the flyer that John Dowd released last year to snooker the press into believing that Trump had been more cooperative than any other President before (which I debunked here).

As one measure of Trump’s purported cooperation, Dowd bragged just over a year ago about how much the White House had reviewed and turned over and how much Trump’s campaign had turned over. He provided those numbers in pages.

In all, the White House provided over 20,000 pages to the Special Counsel in connection with the categories of material identified (over 100,000 pages of documents were reviewed by the White House).

[snip]

In all, over 1.4 million pages of documents were produced to the Special Counsel by the Campaign.

I made some effort last year to chase down what that number, 1.4 million, meant, but none of the people I asked were able to explain it.

Whatever the number means, however, it compares badly with what Mueller has collected on Stone. According to Stone’s lawyers, there are already 2.23 million pages of documents in discovery ready to go, with terabytes more still being prepared for review.

The defense’s ediscovery vendor identified approximately 2.23 million pages of “Load Ready” data provided by the government, including the “Hot Documents” identified, without warranty, by the government. There is approximately another 4.5 Terabytes of “Non-Load” ready data provided by the government that is in the process of being filtered and prepared for review.

The stuff still being filtered may be what FBI seized when they arrested Stone in January. If that’s right, it means that just on what Mueller had collected without raiding Stone’s home, he already had 35% more volume than the entirety of what the Trump campaign congratulated itself for turning over to Mueller.

Admittedly, the “hot documents” — the ones that go to the core of the case — are likely a far smaller subset (and will overlap to the extent that people on the campaign, like Steve Bannon, were talking to Stone about WikiLeaks releases). But the numbers at least put some perspective on how much smoke John Dowd was blowing last year when he pretended that his client was being all that forthcoming with the Special Counsel.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Two Details That Many Are Missing in/about the Stone Indictment

I’ve been traveling most of the day to get out of the Midwest before the snow and record low temperatures show up, and will be buried for three days working on things that have nothing to do with any investigation Mueller has been involved in since 2013.

But I do want to add two details to the parlor game going on about whether or not the Roger Stone indictment is the tip of a conspiracy-burg or evidence there’s no there there. Joyce White Vance argues that Mueller charged Stone the way he did to hide the rest of the conspiracy prosecution.

Why didn’t Mueller charge Stone with conspiracy? The rules in federal cases require that prosecutors provide defendants with broad discovery. By indicting Stone on a fairly narrow set of charges, Mueller limits what has to be disclosed & can protect ongoing investigation.

Randall Eliason offers a respectable version of the argument that the indictment suggests there won’t be a conspiracy case.

There have always been at least two possible end games for the Mueller investigation. He could uncover evidence of a widespread criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russians to influence the election. Or he could conclude that the campaign’s numerous documented interactions with Russians seeking to help Trump win were not criminal, but people close to Trump lied to cover up those interactions because revealing them would have been politically devastating.

Stone’s indictment falls into the coverup category. Mueller may have evidence of the broader conspiracy, and more charges may well be coming. But every case like Stone’s, or those against former campaign manager Paul Manafort, that is filed without charging a conspiracy with the Russians makes it seem more likely that criminal charges brought by the special counsel will end up being primarily about the coverups.

Andy McCarthy offers a less respectable version of the same.

Neither Eliason nor McCarthy account for one of the only new details in the indictment, showing that an unidentified Steve Bannon associate congratulated Stone on October 7.

On or about October 7, 2016, Organization 1 released the first set of emails stolen from the Clinton Campaign chairman. Shortly after Organization 1’s release, an associate of the high-ranking Trump Campaign official sent a text message to STONE that read “well done.” In subsequent conversations with senior Trump Campaign officials, STONE claimed credit for having correctly predicted the October 7, 2016 release.

This detail shows that the Trump campaign at least believed that Stone succeeded in getting WikiLeaks to drop the John Podesta emails to distract attention from the Access Hollywood video, which in turn is consistent with a claim Jerome Corsi made about Stone having advance knowledge of the Access Hollywood video and that he and Stone succeeded in timing the email release.

 Corsi wrote in his forthcoming 57,000-word book that he told Zelinsky that Stone told him in advance that the “Access Hollywood” tape would be released.

He wrote that “although I could not remember exactly when Roger told me, or the precise substance of the discussion, I remembered Roger told me before the Washington Post went to press with the Billy Bush tape that the tape was coming and that it would be a bombshell.”

Corsi said he had three phone calls with Stone in the hours before the release of the tape.

“I know nothing about that, either does Jerry Corsi,” Stone told TheDCNF. When asked why Corsi might be motivated to make a false claim, Stone said: “He’s saying this because the prosecutors induced him to say it.”

Corsi also wrote that Zelinsky revealed that prosecutors had evidence of an email exchange between he and Stone “in which Stone expressed pleasure that Assange had released the Podesta emails as instructed.”

Corsi said he replied that he and Stone “should be given credit” for the release.

While Stone disputes Corsi’s claim and Corsi feigns forgetfulness about precisely what happened, by including a communication showing Stone getting credit for the timing, Mueller is suggesting that Corsi is right — and that he has credible, corroborating evidence to prove it.

That’s more coordination — between Corsi and Stone, but more importantly between some go-between and WikiLeaks — than would be the case if Stone’s indictment were all Mueller had. It would put Stone and Corsi in a conspiracy with WikiLeaks and their go-between(s).

Then there’s this detail from the motion to seal Stone’s indictment that no one has yet offered a full explanation for (indeed, most of the reports that noted that Amy Berman Jackson had been assigned the case didn’t explain this detail at all).

Someone — and it would almost certainly have to be the prosecutors (including one who, DC US Attorney’s office prosecutor Jonathan Kravis, is on the internet Research Agency case),  — told the court that Stone’s namby pamby “process crime” is related to the big conspiracy case involving WIkiLeaks with a bunch of Russian hackers. (I’ve updated my running docket of Mueller and potentially related cases to reflect Stone’s indictment.) And while it’s true that Stone is described in the GRU indictment, he is not named in a way that the court would identify that by themselves. WikiLeaks shows up in both, but there’s no need to tie WikiLeaks cases together unless some defendant is going to show up to face prosecution (and WikiLeaks is does not take any of the overt acts described in the Stone indictment).

I don’t pretend to understand how this happened or what it all means. But there’s nothing about the Stone obstruction prosecution that would overlap with the evidence in the GRU indictment. And, as charged, the GRU indictment won’t be prosecuted at all until Julian Assange or someone else involved in it ends up in DC to face charges.

By all means, continue the parlor game. But at least explain how those two details fit into your theory of nothing-“berder” or grand conspiracy.

Update: By popular demand, I’m including the definition of a “related case” under DC’s local rules.

A related case for the purpose of this Rule means as follows:

(1) Criminal cases are deemed related when

(i) a superseding indictment has been filed, or

(ii) more than one indictment is filed or pending against the same defendant or defendants, or

(iii) prosecution against different defendants arises from a common wiretap, search warrant, or activities which are a part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction. A case is considered pending until a defendant has been sentenced.

Certainly, WikiLeaks is named as a co-conspirator in both. But it is not yet a defendant. Though both cases may rely on a wiretap targeting Wikileaks. Or perhaps Stone’s search warrant included his conversations with Guccifer 2.0, and so the other indictment.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

How Roger the Rat Fucked Himself

After the FBI arrested Roger Stone today, they conducted searches on his homes in Florida and NYC. It will be interesting to see whether and if so how much evidence they found in his homes.

That’s because — in spite of the fact that Stone has been rat-fucking for almost a half century, and in spite of the fact that Stone was willing to risk major prison time as part of a cover-up, Stone utterly fucked himself by keeping incriminating materials around and leaking them out via journalists.

If Ronald Reagan is rolling in his grave today because the Air Traffic Controllers showed that by working collectively they could be more powerful than a President, then Richard Nixon is rolling in his grave today that a guy still branded with his face failed the cover-up so much worse than Nixon himself (Unrelatedly, but hysterically, the Nixon Foundation released a statement today effectively calling Stone a coffee boy).

Consider this passage in his indictment for lying to the House Intelligence Committee:

STONE’s False and Misleading Testimony About His Possession of Documents Pertinent to HPSCI’s Investigation

22. During his HPSCI testimony, STONE was asked, “So you have no emails to anyone concerning the allegations of hacked documents . . . or any discussions you have had with third parties about [the head of Organization 1]? You have no emails, no texts, no documents whatsoever, any kind of that nature?” STONE falsely and misleadingly answered,  “That is correct. Not to my knowledge.”

23. In truth and in fact, STONE had sent and received numerous emails and text messages during the 2016 campaign in which he discussed Organization 1, its head, and its possession of hacked emails. At the time of his false testimony, STONE was still in possession of many of these emails and text messages, including:

a. The email from STONE to Person 1 on or about July 25, 2016 that read in part, “Get to [the head of Organization 1] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Organization 1] emails . . . they deal with Foundation, allegedly.”;

b. The email from STONE to Person 1 on or about July 31, 2016 that said an associate of Person 1 “should see [the head of Organization 1].”;

c. The email from Person 1 to STONE on or about August 2, 2016 that stated in part, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”;

d. Dozens of text messages and emails, beginning on or about August 19, 2016 and continuing through the election, between STONE and Person 2 in which they discussed Organization 1 and the head of Organization 1;

e. The email from STONE on or about October 3, 2016 to the supporter involved with the Trump Campaign, which read in part, “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”; and

f. The emails on or about October 4, 2016 between STONE and the high-ranking member of the Trump Campaign, including STONE’s statement that Organization 1 would release “a load every week going forward.”

24. By falsely claiming that he had no emails or text messages in his possession that referred to the head of Organization 1, STONE avoided providing a basis for HPSCI to subpoena records in his possession that could have shown that other aspects of his testimony were false and misleading.

To be clear, I’m sure that Mueller has independent basis for his knowledge that, “At the time of his false testimony, STONE was still in possession of many of these emails and text messages,” showing that he talked about what documents Assange had. As I’ve said, I think it highly likely Stone was included among those on whose phones Mueller got a warrant in March of last year. And if he could get a warrant for Stone’s phone, he obviously could get a warrant for Stone’s email (and probably issued preservation orders when he became Special Counsel in May 2017, if FBI hadn’t already done so).

But Mueller would have had proof that Stone had possession — and knowledge of — some of these records even without a warrant. That’s because Stone, in an apparent effort to undermine Mueller’s case, has been slowly leaking them to the press, accelerating last November.

Of those listed here, for example, after Bannon leaked the October 4 email set to the NYT and WaPo, Stone responded with a piece under his own name acknowledging those emails.

I had been told this would come in October for months by my source Randy Credico, whom I identified for the House Intelligence Committee.

[snip]

When Bannon’s minion Matt Boyle asked me if what Assange had was “good” I replied it was, based on Credico’s insistence the material was “devastating,” “bombshell” and would “change the race.” This turned out to be right, although — as I have testified — I never knew the content or source of the Wikileaks disclosures in advance.

As for the August 2016 texts with Randy Credico, some days later, Stone leaked them to the Daily Caller, again, using his own name.

Julian Assange has kryptonite on Hillary,” Randy Credico wrote to Stone on Aug. 27, 2016, according to text messages that Stone provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Mueller didn’t need a warrant to obtain the evidence to convict Roger Stone. He has the Daily Caller for that!!

Which raises the question why — other than sloppiness, hubris, or declining rat-fucking skills — Stone went to the trouble of lying to HPSCI if he didn’t, at the same time, delete all records of his election year rat-fuckery, which might have minimized the charges he is facing today.

Stone chose to keep these records, even (apparently, though I don’t know that those came out other than in Corsi’s own leaked plea deal) the ones with Corsi that show he was lying about Credico. Stone chose to obstruct justice, but not to do so in a way that would destroy the evidence he was trying to hide.

One reason he may have wanted to do that was to keep leverage over Trump and people like Steve Bannon in his immediate circle.

Which may mean today’s raids found far more interesting evidence implicating Trump and others.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Reading Roger’s Indictment

This post will provide a guide to reading Roger Stone’s indictment, to highlight what was unknown from it, and what has long been known. I’ll do updates to talk about the pregnant silences in the indictment.

Organization 1: WikiLeaks

Person 1: Jerome Corsi

Person 2: Randy Credico

Senior Trump Campaign official (¶12): Unknown — my wildarseguess is Rick Gates

After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign.

Corsi’s associate (¶13a, ¶13b): Ted Malloch

Attorney with ability to contact Assange (¶15dii): Margaret Kunstler

A supporter involved with the Trump Campaign (¶16a, ¶16d): Unknown

High-ranking Trump campaign official (¶16b, ¶16c): Steven Bannon

A reporter who had connections to a high-ranking Trump Campaign official (¶16b): Matthew Boyle

Associate of high-ranking Trump campaign official (¶17): Unknown

Person 2’s dog (¶39b): Credico’s therapy dog Bianca, who attended his grand jury appearance with him

September 18 request for information (¶15d): Stone was looking for details on Hillary’s attempts to thwart a Libyan peace deal

Update: I’ve taken out a reference to Sam Nunberg, who has said he’s not the one named in this indictment.

Mueller Plays Hardball with Roger Stone

Roger Stone was indicted and arrested in a raid on his home this morning.

There’s very little that we didn’t already know, at least in outline form: he was indicted because he lied to HPSCI about Jerome Corsi being his source for early WikiLeaks information rather than Randy Credico and then pressured Credico to sustain that claim for him. The sexiest detail about that is that he told Credico he should do a Frank Pentangeli, meaning he should claim not to know what he did.

On multiple occasions, including on or about December 1, 2017, STONE told Person 2 that Person 2 should do a “Frank Pentangeli” before HPSCI in order to avoid contradicting STONE’s testimony. Frank Pentangeli is a character in the film The Godfather: Part II, which both STONE and Person 2 had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims not to know critical information that he does in fact know.

The most important detail — by far — in the indictment reveals that a senior Trump Campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone about what else was coming from WikiLeaks.

After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.

I suspect that the senior Trump Campaign official was Rick Gates, though that’s a guess (Bannon is the very senior official named later in the indictment). The indictment doesn’t say, “directed by whom.”

And that, I think, is why Stone was arrested before dawn rather than permitted to self report, and why Stone was charged with obstruction plus five counts of false statements plus witness tampering (the latter of which carries real time, particularly given  Stone’s physical threats to Credico’s dog Bianca).

This is an effort to get Stone to reveal who that “whom” was, and whatever follow-up contacts he had with that “whom.”

The indictment also doesn’t charge Jerome Corsi, nor does it describe Stone asking Corsi to write a cover story for him back in August 2016. That may mean that Mueller now wants Stone to incriminate Corsi.

The indictment comes before Mueller obtains Andrew Miller’s testimony, which Miller himself has suggested might include interesting information about campaign finance.

But for now, this looks like an indictment and a delivery of it designed to strong arm Stone. I’m not sure that’s going to work with Stone.

Update: Two other key details.

First, the Big Dick Toilet Salesman let Bobby Three Sticks arrest Roger Stone. That’s got to make Trump … uncomfortable about his cover-up plans.

Also, remember that Paul Manafort is due in court today, to find out whether he’ll do life for lying while he was supposed to be cooperating. If Manafort lied to protect Stone (and that’s an area of his cooperation about which Mueller was curiously silent), this may get his attention.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

On Narrating Donald Trump: “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice'”


Pretty much everyone I know is recommending this New Yorker profile describing how Mark Burnett created Donald Trump’s current image (and with it his electoral prospects).

Along with describing how both Trump and Burnett came to turn the popularity of the show into a marketing vehicle and a Trump’s telling claim that he initially hesitated before signing onto reality teevee because the, “contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business … don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room,” the piece describes how the show depicted not reality, but a heavily edited narrative trying to retroactively justify Trump’s capricious firing decisions each week.

The result created the illusion that a serially bankrupt joker was, instead, a king.

Burnett has often boasted that, for each televised hour of “The Apprentice,” his crews shot as many as three hundred hours of footage. The real alchemy of reality television is the editing—sifting through a compost heap of clips and piecing together an absorbing story. Jonathon Braun, an editor who started working with Burnett on “Survivor” and then worked on the first six seasons of “The Apprentice,” told me, “You don’t make anything up. But you accentuate things that you see as themes.” He readily conceded how distorting this process can be. Much of reality TV consists of reaction shots: one participant says something outrageous, and the camera cuts away to another participant rolling her eyes. Often, Braun said, editors lift an eye roll from an entirely different part of the conversation.

At the end of each episode, Trump determined which competitor should be “fired.” But, as Braun explained, Trump was frequently unprepared for these sessions, with little grasp of who had performed well. Sometimes a candidate distinguished herself during the contest only to get fired, on a whim, by Trump. When this happened, Braun said, the editors were often obliged to “reverse engineer” the episode, scouring hundreds of hours of footage to emphasize the few moments when the exemplary candidate might have slipped up, in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip decision made sense. During the making of “The Apprentice,” Burnett conceded that the stories were constructed in this way, saying, “We know each week who has been fired, and, therefore, you’re editing in reverse.” Braun noted that President Trump’s staff seems to have been similarly forced to learn the art of retroactive narrative construction, adding, “I find it strangely validating to hear that they’re doing the same thing in the White House.”

Such sleight of hand is the industry standard in reality television. But the entire premise of “The Apprentice” was also something of a con. When Trump and Burnett told the story of their partnership, both suggested that Trump was initially wary of committing to a TV show, because he was so busy running his flourishing real-estate empire. During a 2004 panel at the Museum of Television and Radio, in Los Angeles, Trump claimed that “every network” had tried to get him to do a reality show, but he wasn’t interested: “I don’t want to have cameras all over my office, dealing with contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business. You know, mobsters don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room. It would play well on television, but it doesn’t play well with them.”

“The Apprentice” portrayed Trump not as a skeezy hustler who huddles with local mobsters but as a plutocrat with impeccable business instincts and unparalleled wealth—a titan who always seemed to be climbing out of helicopters or into limousines. “Most of us knew he was a fake,” Braun told me. “He had just gone through I don’t know how many bankruptcies. But we made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester the king.” Bill Pruitt, another producer, recalled, “We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture. We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.

[snip]

Trump took to his part more nimbly than anyone might have predicted. He wouldn’t read a script—he stumbled over the words and got the enunciation all wrong. But off the cuff he delivered the kind of zesty banter that is the lifeblood of reality television. He barked at one contestant, “Sam, you’re sort of a disaster. Don’t take offense, but everyone hates you.” Katherine Walker told me that producers often struggled to make Trump seem coherent, editing out garbled syntax and malapropisms. “We cleaned it up so that he was his best self,” she said, adding, “I’m sure Donald thinks that he was never edited.” [my emphasis]

Throughout, the piece both implicitly and explicitly suggests that the White House is adopting techniques from the show in burnishing Trump’s power. Or, at least, Trump is asking that his handlers replicate the same frames of power that Burnett used.

The show’s camera operators often shot Trump from low angles, as you would a basketball pro, or Mt. Rushmore. Trump loomed over the viewer, his face in a jowly glower, his hair darker than it is now, the metallic auburn of a new penny. (“Apprentice” employees were instructed not to fiddle with Trump’s hair, which he dyed and styled himself.) Trump’s entrances were choreographed for maximum impact, and often set to a moody accompaniment of synthesized drums and cymbals. The “boardroom”—a stage set where Trump determined which candidate should be fired—had the menacing gloom of a “Godfather” movie. In one scene, Trump ushered contestants through his rococo Trump Tower aerie, and said, “I show this apartment to very few people. Presidents. Kings.” In the tabloid ecosystem in which he had long languished, Trump was always Donald, or the Donald. On “The Apprentice,” he finally became Mr. Trump.

[snip]

Trump has succeeded in politics, in part, by borrowing the tropes of the show. Jonathon Braun pointed out to me that when Trump announced his candidacy, in 2015, he did so in the atrium of Trump Tower, and made his entrance by descending the gold-colored escalator—choreography that Burnett and his team had repeatedly used on the show. After Trump’s announcement, reports suggested that people who had filled the space and cheered during his speech had been hired to do so, like TV extras, for a day rate of fifty dollars. Earlier this year, the White House started issuing brief video monologues from the President that strongly evoke his appearances on Burnett’s show. Justin McConney, a former director of new media for the Trump Organization, told New York that, whenever Trump works with camera people, he instructs them, “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice.’ ” [my emphasis]

One of the most interesting details in the piece is that Democrats actively (and successfully) lobbied musical talent to blow off Trump’s inauguration, themselves performing a kind of script-writing that has haunted Trump since.

A Democratic political operative who was involved in a back-channel campaign to dissuade big-name stars from appearing at the event told me that Burnett had tried to enlist musicians to perform. “Mark was somebody we were actively working against,” the operative said. Trump’s wish list included Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and Paul Anka—who, he hoped, would sing “My Way”—but they all claimed to be otherwise engaged. The event ended up with sparse crowds and a feeble roster of performers.

Because I dawdled before reading the piece, I was reading it at the same time as reading coverage of the shutdown. That coverage highlights the results of running a Reality Teevee star as President. There’s NYT report that the reason why Trump has shut down the government to get Congress to fund him a wall is because Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone (and Steve Bannon) used the wall as a mnemonic device to get Trump to repeat his lines.

“How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?” Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump’s early political advisers, recalled telling Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser. “We’re going to get him to talk about he’s going to build a wall.”

[snip]

“As a messaging strategy, it was pretty successful,” [anti-immigration activist Mark] Krikorian said. “The problem is, you got elected; now what do you do? Having made it his signature issue, Trump handed the Democrats a weapon against him.”

We’ve shut down the entire government because an entertainment professional always refused to memorize his lines (or as someone on Twitter noted, use a teleprompter), and so the unstable hacks who managed him early on invented a policy promise that not even hardline anti-immigration experts want.

And Trump seems to be judging the advice on the shutdown he receives based on how sycophantically his interlocutors judge his “performance” trying to ratchet up pressure for a wall.

Trump spent much of Saturday on the phone with allies, talking through his positioning on the shutdown and hearing their reviews of his Rose Garden performance, according to a person close to him. Two people regularly on his call list — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — have encouraged Trump to take a hard line and refuse to agree to reopen the government unless wall funding is secured, the person said.

Trump, who doesn’t understand the successful tycoon that starred in The Apprentice was the product of heavy editing, has now taken to editing himself, trying to fulfill the things the Campaign Reality Teevee star said over and over, based off what Mark Meadows and Lindsey Graham  tell him.

The New Yorker profile, however, offers scant solutions to the problem that Burnett created — just his ex-wife imploring him to tell Trump he’s not actually living a reality show, as if that will fix the problem.

One day this past fall, Burnett got a call from his first wife, Kym Gold, with whom he remains friendly. Gold was upset about what was happening in the country, and asked Burnett to intervene with Trump. “We had it out,” she told me. “I said, ‘You’ve got to help our children, for the future and safety of this country.’ ” Gold implored Burnett, “Tell him this is not a reality show. This is real life. You’re the President. You’re saying things you cannot say—to reporters, to other world leaders.”

But that wouldn’t fix it even if Burnett were willing to risk losing access to Trump by telling him.

The problem, and any potential solutions, is something I’ve been thinking about for some time. No one is going to cure Trump of his addiction to being framed to look powerful. If he doesn’t get that high from his White House handlers, he will continue to fire them and look elsewhere, to people who are even better trained at flattery than Burnett. Trump now believes he can produce himself, based largely on the feedback of nutjobs like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.

I’m not actually advocating letting Trump frame himself as a king. But I also think that much of Democrats’ response involves trying to fact check Trump rather than reframe him. Your typical Trump voter isn’t going to give a damn that Trump is lying until some policy he has bragged about (up to and including the shutdown, but also his trade wars) ends up making them feel personally betrayed.

Mind you, I think Nancy Pelosi understands all this. She understands (like that other great female politician, Angela Merkel) that Trump will lose more if he is shown looking weak next to a woman than if someone proves his 100,000th lie.

That last of the self-imagined productive sycophants left with John Kelly. Trump now has a temporary Chief of Staff, one who will be gone once Trump decides to internalize Mick Mulvaney’s labeling of Trump’s position on the wall as “childish.” That creates a vacuum in the function of framing Trump’s image.

Update, January 12: This important op-ed from an OLC veteran describes how lawyers there do much the same as what editors on The Apprentice does.

But when I was at OLC, I saw again and again how the decision to trust the president failed the office’s attorneys, the Justice Department and the American people. The failure took different forms. Sometimes, we just wouldn’t look that closely at the claims the president was making about the state of the world. When we did look closely, we could give only nudges. For example, if I identified a claim by the president that was provably false, I would ask the White House to supply a fig leaf of supporting evidence. Or if the White House’s justification for taking an action reeked of unconstitutional animus, I would suggest a less pungent framing or better tailoring of the actions described in the order.

I often wondered, though, whether my attempts to remove the most basic inaccuracies from the face of a presidential order meant that I was myself failing to carry out my oath to protect and defend the Constitution. After all, the president had already submitted, through his early drafts or via Twitter, his reasons for issuing a particular order. I sometimes felt that, rather than engaging in professionally responsible advocacy, my OLC colleagues and I were using the law to legitimize lies.

I felt more than a twinge of recognition this month when reading a New Yorker article about Trump and the reality-TV show “The Apprentice.” Jonathan Braun, an editor on “The Apprentice,” described how editors would “reverse engineer” episodes after Trump made impulsive decisions about firing a contestant. The article described editors “scouring hundreds of hours of footage . . . in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip decision made sense.” Like a staff member at “The Apprentice,” I occasionally caught myself fashioning a pretext, building an alibi.